Whittell out, Round Hill in for UNR study center | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell out, Round Hill in for UNR study center

SAND HARBOR – The University of Nevada, Reno soon should be able to conduct research at the East Shore’s Whittell estate. However, plans to build a new research facility there have disappeared.

While unsure about how long it may take to turn the vision into a reality, UNR and Lake Tahoe officials Wednesday announced their intention to build a research facility at Round Hill to house the efforts of several research agencies and policy makers.

Officials from UNR, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Desert Research Institute, Nevada Division of State Lands and U.S. Forest Service signed an agreement to jointly pursue building a proposed 35,000-square-foot building. It will be called the Tahoe Basin Environmental Science Center.

“This is the first step in bringing these cooperative agencies together in one place,” said Drake DeLanoy, the Nevada governor’s appointee on TRPA’s governing board. “We don’t have a permanent home for TRPA. The university doesn’t have a lab up here; DRI’s in the same situation. This is something that could benefit all of us.”

DeLanoy said Wednesday at a special Lake Tahoe workshop that the estate of a deceased Arkansas resident, who had a home in Incline Village, may be able to fund building the facility. Now that the agencies agreed to pursue the plan, officials now will have to come up with specific plans and then approach the foundation.

DRI has long hoped to build a facility in Round Hill, and a parcel of land already is set aside for that purpose.

Glenn Miller, researcher at UNR, said this opportunity likely would change the university’s plans to build a research lab at the Whittell estate.

After a federal land swap is completed within the next few weeks, UNR will have access to the estate’s existing structures, which include a 16,000-square-foot, 3-story, medieval-style French chateau known as the Thunderbird Lodge and a cavernous boathouse connected to the main lodge by a 500-foot-long tunnel.

A research center couldn’t adequately be housed in the existing structures, and a new building was to be built at the site. Now, however, that likely won’t happen, and UNR will rely on the Round Hill center for its research facility. Limited research still can take place at the Whittell estate, but it will mostly serve as a conference center.

The University of California, Davis, has had a Tahoe City research facility since the 1970s. It’s a dilapidated fish hatchery and officials are in the process of raising money to upgrade it significantly. More than half of the $12 million needed to start building the Lake Tahoe Center for Environmental Research has been raised.

Nevada and California researchers in the past have competed against each other regarding science at Lake Tahoe, a trend that is changing in recent years.

Miller said the Round Hill center will serve as a complementary facility to the U.C. Davis lab. Scientists from both universities likely will share their research centers.

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